tv [untitled] June 26, 2012 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT
now it's essentially when people -- when organizations or those aattempt to send material or documentation to verify people's residency. and if that information is sent back and is not verified by no fault of their own, then they are challenged at the voting booth as not being a resident or eligible to vote. and this is something that we have been see iing, that we've encountered particularly in the last presidential elections. we encountered a lot of voeter caging that were occurring in michigan and ohio. the challenges that were happening, particularly because of the foreclosure crisis that is on going. and this is particularly sad because we know that at such a stark economic situation, we're getting better.
however, people are still having challenges in the housing industry. in the housing arena. and therefore, people are taking advantage of that situation and claiming that simply because a person or a family may be in the process of a foreclosure proceedings, that they are not eligible to truth and that could not be farther from the truth. >> on the evidence of the mail not having been returned. they could be a student away at school, a soldier, there could be any number of reasons. >> that's right. >> and the reason that this is pernicious is because political organizations do it targeting specific neighborhoods in order to challenge the vote out of that neighborhood and they choose neighborhoods that are asosociated with strong votes fr the opposing party, correct? >> correct. that's correct. >> and would this bare on the
voting cager problem? >> this bill would address on some of the false challenges to inhibiting registration. it doesn't address voter caging as much as we need to. that's one area of other type of legislation that you have introduced and we've supported in the past. >> i just wanted to be clear that this did not displace my legislation. very good. i will yield my time back. >> the chairwoman will note that no one ever displaces his legislation. senator lee? >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thanks to all of you for joining us. ms. house, i wanted to start with you and just ask if you wanted to respond to mr. parks' assertion that federal law in this area is sufficient as it now exists or at least could
cover much or most of the conduct that we're concerned about. >> sure. as mr. park indicated, it's civil and does not criminalize and does not actually address deceptive tactics. neither do other facts. they have not been utilized to get specific issues regarding fliers such as this. >> is there nonutilization due to the fact that the law it is inadequate? >> it's inadequate. and it has not been -- it's both inadequate and it has not been utilized by law enforcement authority in order to prosecute these kinds of claims and the department of justice has indicated as such that this is why they support this type of legislation because it would enable them to be very directed in addressing these type of deceptive tactics and fliers. >> with regard to state law, any time i look at expanding our
existing body of federal law, instinctively tend to ask the question is state law inadd kwet. when you referred to the fact that the state law isn't covering it is this because state laws are inadequate or is it the amount of itmplementatio that's inadequate. >> well, it's both. and i think i misstated earlier there are not 10 separate bills. there's a number of states upward, i think eight or so, that actually have types of fraud or statutes in place that could be utilized to prosecute deceptive practices. >> garden-variety fraud. >> garden-variety fraud statutes that are not being utilized in that matter. there's only a couple that have specific deceptive practices on the books. and they still are not clear in their definition of exactly what
types of deceptive practices would be covered under that. and, therefore, it does make it very difficult to prosecute and, also, it does not necessarily provide the required protective action that we are seeking here today. >> and do you believe that -- let's suppose states were to adopt those, is it your position that states should not be the ones focused on protecting federal elections, protecting honesty and integrity of federal elections, that that ought to be a federal function because we're talking about federal offices? >> i'm sorry. your're asking whether or not that the states do everything and we don't need the federal law? >> yeah, could states, if you had -- if you had states ado adopting legislation that was more robust, would you still prefer to have federal legislation on the books to cover federal offices? >> yes, we are working on both fronts. we are working both to try to work in the states to provide
more robust statutes in the state legislatures. but we also believe that it's necessary on the federal level to have a more uniform requirements. additionally, it is not always the case that state and local authorities will prosecute. nor is it the case that they will also provide the necessary corrective information to disseminate if we do have deceptive fliers. and that is something that we do often times rely upon the federal government to do, especially when you have targets communities. particularly communities of colors and those are vulnerable that may not otherwise be protected or, you know, by the state local authorities. >> do you care to respond on the private right of action and how that might be abused? >> i think that, as an attorney myself, a private right of action is a necessary vehicle in
order to protect -- i think any law can be abused. and i don't think it's justifiable to suggest that sitly because theresi simply because there's potential for abuse that you should not provide a provision that could be so effective in protecting a fundamental right chrks is the right to vote. >> i understand that. but you would agree with the fact that as lawmakers, we have to look at each bill that we look at and try to figure out whether we'd be creating as many or more problems that we're solving. that's a legitimate thing. >> it's a legitimate question to ask. and i think that in this regard, we don't feel that we would be creating more harm than good. in fact, we would be creating the complete opposite. that we would really be providing a vehicle to deter and stop some of these deceptive tactics. >> okay.
i see my time has expired. thank you very much. thank you, chairman. >> thank you, senator lee. first, i have a statement that i'm going to put in the record. i've cared long about this. in fact, i am the lead cosponsor with senator carton on the legislation. it's absolutely dispickble, what some people do. and to say that the first amendment protects anything but threats doesn't make any sense what so ever. no amendment is absolute. we have anti-pornography laws. i take it you support some of these things, mr. park? you support anti-pornography laws? >> yes, senator. >> and do you support libel laws? >> yes, senator. >> we all know amendment is
absolute. and, by the way, i believe that of all of the amendments. balancing is very important. it's easy to be an absolutist. and it ee's wrong because life shades of grey in just about every area and in our constitution, as well. there are always balancing test. so some of these practices are dispickble. these things, to me, people like this really belong in jail. because they're really violating the fabric of our democracy. i just find them despicable. despicable. one of the things is because people have found weighs to
interfere with democracy that nobody would support. there's a movement to suppress voting. alec and other groups have done this. and, again, i find that to be corrosive of democracy. obviously, there's a 15th amendment, there's a 1st amendment. so my question to mr. park is you would agree that a specific thre threat, it's verbal, if you move, i'm going to shoot you, would be prohibited federally? is that true? >> i think it could be prohibted under existing law. >> well, maybe it could. but let's say some state doesn't have a law that covers that
specific situation. would the 15th amendment trump the first amendment because obviously it's just speech. but speech that we've always prohibited in that instance. assuming the state had no law. let's just agree for the sake of argument. >> assuming that there was neither federal or state law, i think that you could criminalize that conduct. >> so then the question is, the conduct we're talking about prohibiting here which is not direct threat but a step down, two steps down, you can define it as you will. why is that protected? or why does not the 15th amendment trump that type of activity, as well? just -- i'd like to hear that out from you. i know some people have talked around -- and similar questions. but i'd like to hear a direct answer on that.
it has the same effect, by the way, of prohibiting people from voting. there are stringent requirement ins the bill by deliberately lying to them. there's no intent to inform or anything else. >> i understand that. but my law is under-utilized and punishes that kind of -- >> no, i understand that, sir. but my question to you is whether this law is unconstitutional or protected or violative of the first amendment. and you are doing that it is, i presume. >> my argument is that it may chill protected speech and we don't know, yet, what the united states supreme court is going to do. it will speak one way or another and may provide substantial
guidance on the ability of congress to punish speech that is not truthful. >> um-hmm. right. and here we're not disputing that the speech is not truthful. we're not disputing that it was done maliciously. to me, the distinction on a constitutional basis between the direct threat, which we would all agree would be constitution constitutionally the law going after that would be constitutionally protected. and this is not -- it's not a real distinction. it's not a difference that makes a difference. does either ms. house or ms. flanigan want to comment on that? >> thank you, i think this is an important discussion. let's remember what we're talking about. we're talking about intentionally lying to deceive an eligible voter from participating in an election.
our most fundamental right. so i don't think that this can or should be prekted. if you can't yell fire in a crowded theater -- >> falsely. >> falsely, right. [ laughter ] >> and that -- but that's the point here, too. false information lies about our right to vote cannot be protected. we've go to do something about it. i think what's pornt about this bill is not just penalizing, but doing something about it by requiring this corrective action so we have an immediate response and by gathering more information to the reporting requirement, you know, groups like ours, we've been researching and talking with voters over the years. but we need to create a congressional record so we can truly make the changes necessary. >> right. ms. house? >> i would simply agree with
what ms. flanigan has stated. we completely agree that this is not protective speech. deceptive fliers and tactics cannot go unaccounted for and unaddressed. it is particularly pernicious because we are tar getting these vulnerable communities. i don't know that there's much else to say other than this has to be addressed. we are talking about protecting a fundamental right. and if we simply state that in order to provide -- that we cannot provide for this protection of a fundamental right because we are worried that somewhere around the line that some possibility that that speech may be chilled, it's simply unacceptable. and this is false speech. this is false claims, misrepresentations. misinformation. and we do believe that there's
supreme court presence to substantiate that. that kags does provide still some guidance as to what we're talking about in this bill. we, indeed, provide that there has to be an intent. the information has to be shown to be materially false, knowingly. and so therefore, that actually still is within the guidelines of what we're talking about in alvarez and either way it goes. so, regardless, we do believe that this is a bill that we can move forward with. >> well, thank you, ms. house. and i see senator koontz is here. and you can always make the argument against any intentional tort or criminal law with intent.
well, you're going to kill something because somebody might do something carelessly or whatever. that's why we have intent. if you don't believe intent works, you're going to throw out 20% of the laws in this country. i think it's subterfuge, to be honest with you. i think it's some of the people who argue this are not really appalled by this kind of behavior that we talked about. and so they mied behind an example that wouldn't fit under the intentional clause. >> i want to be very clear that the lawyer's committee has always supported the right freedom of speech. this is not about a preference of one particular amendment over another. we are here because we believe the importance of enforcing all of these rights. and we do have these limitations on false speech. >> okay, well, thank you all. i'm going to call on the senator, but, again, i want to thank senator carden for his
leadership. >> thank you, senator schumer. to my clay house, if i might, i want to thank you for your testimony, which i've had a chance to read. to thank the lawyer's committee for the great work it's done since senator kennedy and the rights of voters across america, as well, as to ensure section five of the voting rights act endorsed. and that's resulted in hundreds of thousands of citizens being able to vote. you've made some reference to recent efforts to advance voter suppression in particularly chilling or disturbing ways. i could you talk in a little more detail about that? about what you think we can and should be doing to deter that?
>> sure, i'd be happy to. we've addressed some of these issues in our report that we'll be releasing. but with the new technology, facebook, twitter, something that i barely know much about but my son will teach me very soon, this text messaging that's going out across the country, particularly targeted against students, this type of technology on the internet, we've seen messages going out throughout college campuses and telling, you know, giving them false information because there is an ability to reach those wider audiences, it's particularly stressing and much more difficult to try to stop some of these types of tactics if we don't have laws that are in place and are very specific to these types of acts. and so, again, they're really targeting particularly those communities that are really
utilized in these types of media. so we've taken the deliberate action of trying to make sure that we're doing our best to get the right information out if we're finding ou about these types of incidents through election protection and we have a new app coming out on smart phones to get information to those who have this. this is something that we've encountered and really trying to address this as much as possible. so the good old fashioned practices through fliers or hand distributed leaflets has continued in the modern age? >> yeah, it's the same time of misinformation, just through the internet and other types of social media. >> an example that was cited, particularly in george mason,
thousands receiving misinformation about the timing of the vote. have there been other examples of that? >> i believe there are other examples. i can't pull them out through the memory at the moment. and i apologize. but there are other examples chl and that is just one of them that we wanted to particular ly illuminate. corrective action was sent out. and that's something we want to encourage and happen, but it's not guaranteed. and so therefore, that's why we need to have these types of -- this type of legislation to mandate that corrective action, you know, by different authorities. >> i understand there's been more challenging polling places that specifically seem to be raising concerns and fears in those particular areas. can you speak a little bit more about that? >> absolutely.
deceptive tactics is one of them. we have seen in addition -- other types of intimidation tactics, people being challenged at the polling place is distr s distressing. targeting at students. what they do is they know of organizations that are already determined that they are going to send a million people across the country to be challengers. and to specifically challenge people at the polling place. and what that does is it put ins place a whole round of restrictions or requirement so now they're going to have to have hurdles that they're going to have to jump through to vote. once you've been challenged, you
have to provide additional identification. fortunately, we do have the help america vote act that they are allowed to vote by provisional ballot. however, because of the loophole that is have been placed in some state laws, they're not able to have that vote counted. it's not guaranteed. the reason that these challenges are put in place is in order to create that type of confusion and because people are not aware of the types of ids and other types of information that they're going to need to have in order to voet, it creates this confusion at the polling place and could ultimately change the electi election. >> last, if i might, the help america vote at the ability to vote on this process of challengers at polls and
demanding identification, proof of citizenship and so forth, the argument for why that's legitimate or necessary, widespread fraud are there? how widespread a problem is this in keeping our process open. >> well, the number is so minimal that it's not massive. it's not widespread as even senat senator lehy indicated earlier. and did not -- did not find any type of massive voter impersonation fraud taking place across this country. in fact, what's stead found is that many people might have had mult pl registrations only because they moved or it was unintentional or there is
administrative errors that were encountered by election officials and this was not those who were ineligible to vote to try to commit voter fraud at the polling place which, again, does not -- is not reasonable. considering that anyone, if they're not here -- if they're undocumented to go to the polling place, to subject yourself to the potential to be deported under voting is not a reasonable assumption or claim that is being made. >> thank you for your testimony today. in closing, i think we have a balance that we have to strike. i think we need to be vigorous and engaged in preventing disenfranchisement of those who are entitled to vote and who we want to vote by restrictive id clause and to strike voter
balance. we should be investing the time that those that can vote and register to vote that the process is free and fair and open. we hold ourselves out to the rest of the world as a beacon of democracy. >> thank you to all of the members of the panel and thank you, senator schumer for holding the hearing open for a few min uts so i could join. >> i just make one point. our legislation applies no matter who's tar getted. you could target the poorest people in town, the richest people in town if you do these kinds of things for whatever your political purpose would apply. with that, i want to thank our witnesses. this is important stuff. it goes to the wellspring of our democracy. and the hearing rorld will ini open for 7 days for people to submit statements and additional questions for the witnesses.
my name is clint talbot, i'm the moderator. which basically means i introduce the smart people and let them talk. and i will do that now. we have to my left, immediate left, is kerry hesler. she is perhaps best known right now for it being deputy director of the peace corps, a capacity in which she served since 2010. she's also worked in the field of public health in the past two
decades, specializing in hiv and aids and maternal and child health and other philanthropic endefers. to her left is heather hurlburt who is executive director of the national security network as a nonprofit organization. to her left is judith morrison who is senior advisor at inter-american development bank. and she works on international development in latin america. she previously served as a regional director for south america and the caribbean at the inter-american foundation. so